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Tokyo store's female android looking for love

Takashimaya has rolled out a Geminoid robot to greet shoppers for Valentine's Day. Will she find love?

Pretty Geminoid is waiting for a beau--carbon-based or otherwise. Courtesy Kokoro

Ah, Valentine's Day. It's just around the corner, so have you thought about how you'll express your love for your favorite inanimate object? Humans are so passe.

Japanese retailers have a suggestion. They're setting geek hearts aflutter with a pretty, ageless female android who's looking for love.

Clutching a bag and cell phone, she seems to be waiting for a suitor.

"Android falls in love? She is waiting for you" reads the writing on her glass box at Takashimaya Department Store in Tokyo's Shinjuku district.

The special Valentine's display features Geminoid F, the photogenic robot developed by Osaka University professor Hiroshi Ishiguro and colleagues.

Geminoid is modeled on a woman in her twenties. Courtesy Hiroshi Ishiguro

The mechanical lady was modeled on a real woman in her twenties. She sits in her glass room at Takashimaya and greets shoppers.

Based on data from an embedded sensor array around her, the android reacts to people in the vicinity. She moves her shoulders and neck, and changes her facial expression, smiling or yawning, depending on what's going on.

"Retailers would like to use real fashion models in their store windows, but it isn't practical," Ishiguro told IDG News. "Mannequins, however, don't really look human. Using an android like this realizes the store windows of the future."

Geminoid is an air servo-powered humanoid with eye, mouth, head, and shoulder mobility. It can also be remote-operated so that it acts as a surrogate for a distant user, reproducing his or her facial expressions and voice.

Ishiguro developed the machine in collaboration with ATR Intelligent Robotics and Communication Laboratories, and Kokoro, a Tokyo-based entertainment firm known for its Actroid androids. He also made an android copy of himself, the original Geminoid.

The professor's latest experiment will also give him a chance to study how shoppers react to the fembot when tens of thousands pour in over the weekend. Expect some heavy breathing.

"What is this android feeling when you look at it?" Ishiguro mused. "That's quite fun to imagine."

No doubt she's wondering whether an ardent admirer will bust her out of that glass cage and carry her off to a love hotel.

Geminoid may be far from perfect--she can't walk and needs a large air compressor just to move her head. But what are such flaws to a real Romeo?

After all, as Shakespeare wrote:

Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind
And therefore is winged Cupid painted blind.